News for September 16, 1999

Council to look at revised tax plan

by Paul Leakan
Staff Writer
After weeks of debating whether to give telemarketing companies special tax breaks, Clarksburg City Council will consider a new plan tonight that would offer a similar deal to all new businesses that come into certain areas of the city.
Several council members have expressed concern over a proposed ordinance that would offer certain telemarketing companies special breaks on business and occupation taxes.
Councilwomen Becky Lake and Margaret Bailey both questioned the fairness of the ordinance, which has been tabled twice.
Now, council may decide to give its support to a new ordinance addressing the tax breaks when it meets at 7:30 tonight in the Municipal Building.
"It appears that they're looking for a sense of fairness among all businesses," said City Manager Percy Ashcraft.
"Instead of just opening it to the telemarketing industry and allowing a credit based on jobs, it seemed to be a push from council to offer a credit to all businesses based on jobs."
Under the new ordinance, the city would offer any person who locates or has located a new business in certain areas of the city after May 1, 1999, the following:
-- A 100 percent waiver on business and occupation taxes for the first three years if the business creates 100 jobs.
-- A 50 percent reduction on B&O taxes if the business creates between 200 and 399 new jobs from its fourth to 10th year.
-- A 75 percent reduction on B&O taxes if the business creates between 400 and 699 new jobs from their fourth to 10th year.
-- A 100 percent waiver on B&O taxes if the business creates 700 or more new jobs from their fourth to 10th year.
In order to qualify for the deal, the new businesses would have to move into either the central business district, business and technology center, Glen Elk areas or any heavy industrial zone -- areas that are designated and defined by the city.
In addition, the businesses must not have been located in the city in the previous 10 years and must provide copies of payrolls certified as "true and accurate" to the city. From the payroll information, the city's finance director would determine whether a business qualifies for the tax credits.
The purpose of the ordinance is to target areas that need help with economic development, Ashcraft said. For example, businesses located in areas like the Newpointe shopping center and Rose Bud Plaza would not be eligible for the deal.
"You don't need to stimulate an area that is already growing," Ashcraft said. "We're just trying to kick-start areas that need help."

Public meeting set on bridge replacement

by Gail Marsh
Staff Writer
The West Virginia Division of Highways has scheduled a public meeting for Sept. 30 in Shinnston to discuss the proposed replacement of the Shinnston Bridge, the bridge that carries traffic across the West Fork River along U.S. Route 19.
The meeting is set for 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Lincoln High School.
Matt DiGiulian, project manager with the DOH, said the plans to replace the bridge are still in the beginning stages.
"This is an aging bridge that already has posted weight restrictions. Our concern is that it be repaired or replaced before it gets to the point that it can't handle the traffic that flows through that area," DiGiulian said.
The meeting will be in a workshop format, which will give residents a chance to ask questions and give their views on the advantages and disadvantages of three different proposals for replacing the bridge.
The alternatives range in cost from $4.9 million to $5.2 million and would affect from one to four residences and from one to four businesses. Work could start on a new bridge as early as the fall of 2001 or the spring of 2002, DiGiulian said.
"We've done a preliminary study to try to determine the most cost effective way to replace the bridge while affecting the least number of people. Those plans will be discussed in detail at the meeting," he said.
DiGiulian said the new bridge would have at least two through lanes and a turning lane, along with five-foot sidewalks.
"It's still very early in the study. That's why we are holding the public meeting, to get local input to see what the residents want," he said.

Floyd having an impact on local travelers

by James Fisher
Staff Writer
Local travelers wanting to visit the southeast United States will have to wait until later this week or next week to find any flights going anywhere near the Atlantic Coast because of Hurricane Floyd.
Floyd, which was expected to hit the Eastern Seaboard somewhere in North or South Carolina earlier this morning, has caused USAir to cancel all flights in and out of many cities on the East Coast, said Rick Weintraub, spokesman for the airline.
"We have flights everywhere, but we service a huge portion of the Eastern Coast," Weintraub said. "Earlier in the week we had canceled all flights to the Miami and Fort Lauderdale area."
Weintraub said flights are being reinstated as the weather pattern moves away from the affected areas. However, that means cancellations are steadily moving up the East Coast.
"Probably later tonight (Wednesday) we'll have to begin canceling flights in the Virginias and Maryland," he said. "We've already started flying out of Miami, Orlando and Fort Lauderdale."
Delta Air Lines has also canceled many flights to the region. Most major airports in North and South Carolina and Virginia did not have Delta flights Wednesday or today, according to a press release.
Delta and USAir officials are continuing to update flight schedules based on weather conditions.
Weintraub said USAir officials have been conducting conference calls between the main headquarters and the individual flight operation centers at least three times per day since Monday.
"We're constantly updating our flights based on the weather patterns," he said. "We've been trying to determine the pattern of the hurricane and adjust accordingly."
Travelers whose flights were canceled because of Floyd will have their reservations adjusted by USAir at no additional cost, Weintraub said.
"We'll do everything we can to re-accommodate those people," he said.
Weintraub said the airline did not yet have specific numbers on how many flights had been canceled or on how many travelers had been stranded on the East Coast.

West Milford gets federal grant to hire an extra police officer

by Gail Marsh
Staff Writer
The city of West Milford has received a federal COPS grant that will allow it to hire an additional officer this fall, officials said Wednesday.
Roy D. Smith, West Milford's mayor, said the city was notified recently that it will receive $31,800 to hire a 30-hour-per-week police office to help supplement the city's part-time police chief and one full-time officer.
The city received a previous COPS grant for a full-time officer, but that grant ran out in December. Under the terms of the grant, the city is obligated to keep the officer employed until the end of June 2000.
The new officer can be hired immediately, Smith said.
"We are running a classified ad right now and are taking applications at City Hall. We're enthused about being able to get another police officer out on the street," Smith said.
Currently, Chief Ron Cork serves the city "on call" after he finishes his other full-time job, while Patrolman Jeff Kennedy works as West Milford's only full-time officer.
Kennedy works with his trained drug dog, a German shepherd called Lucky. Lucky has been involved in the majority of 31 drug busts in the last five months in the city limits.
"We've stopped people for routine traffic violations and ended up finding drugs. It's mostly been marijuana, but there's been some pills and possibly some black tar heroin. That's being tested at the state lab," Kennedy said.
Kennedy said the new officer will be able to patrol for speeders and drunk drivers, along with covering the city's routine complaint calls about things like noise and dogs.
"We'll be a little better staffed so we'll be able to do things more consistently and be able to get more involved with the community in some prevention programs," he said.

Local and area news in brief

Gilmer County a step closer to getting federal prison

CHARLESTON (AP) -- The U.S. Bureau of Prisons has signed land transfer documents to take possession of 333 acres for a medium-security federal prison near Glenville in Gilmer County.
U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd and Rep. Bob Wise, both D-W.Va., joined bureau director Kathleen Hawk Sawyer for the transfer Tuesday. "I look forward to the day when we can break ground on the new prison and begin construction," Byrd said.
The $135 million prison will alleviate overcrowding at other federal prisons and employ about 350 people, giving the region an economic boost, Byrd said.

Fayette County inmate tries to strangle officer

BECKLEY (AP) -- A Fayette County prisoner faces an attempted murder charge after he tried to strangle an officer who was driving him to jail after a court appearance.
Russell Edwards Junior of Oak Hill and two other inmates were in a Fayette County Sheriff's Department cruiser Tuesday en route to the Southern Regional Jail in Raleigh County.
Edwards was sitting behind Bill Webb in the cruiser, which did not have protective glass to shield the driver. He squirmed out of his chains, threw them around Webb's throat and tried to choke him, said Fayette County Sheriff Larry Dotson. Vans normally are used to transport inmates, but a van was not available, said Dotson.
Webb was able to stop the cruiser. Beckley Patrolman Aaron Young, who was driving a car behind the cruiser, then helped Webb subdue the inmate.

WVU in program to promote jobs for disabled people

CHARLESTON (AP) -- West Virginia University has begun a three-year pilot program to help people with disabilities find work in the university and its branch campuses, officials announced Wednesday.
"WVU will benefit from adding well-qualified people to our staff with experience we can learn from," said university President David C. Hardesty, who joined Gov. Cecil Underwood at the state Capitol to announce the program.
Underwood called the program a first-of-its-kind partnership between state government and a university to help maximize the working potential of people with disabilities.

State jobless rate rises a fraction in August

CHARLESTON (AP) -- Unemployment increased a tenth of a percentage point in August to give West Virginia a 6 percent rate for the month, the Bureau of Employment Pro-grams announced Wednesday.
Overall, employment fell by 1,800 jobs to 728,200 during the month. The number of unemployed West Virginians increased to 50,600.
West Virginia's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate also is up three-tenths of a percentage point to 6.4 percent. The national seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for the month was 4.2 percent.

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